K.T. Irfan has had many sleepless nights in the last few weeks. While the recent Commonwealth Games turned out to be memorable for many, they were a nightmare for Irfan, the country’s biggest name in race walking.
The syringe seized from the room he shared with triple jumper Rakesh Babu in Gold Coast saw the two being expelled from the Games Village as it violated the CWG’s ‘no-needle’ policy.
It played a big part as the Kerala athlete performed badly at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships at Taicang, China on Sunday. “I was under a lot of tension after the CWG incident. It was not my fault but I was mentally very down, there was no proper rest too,” said Irfan, in a chat with Sportstar on Tuesday.
At Taicang, the 20km national record holder said he felt tight towards the halfway mark.
“We had been doing continuous competitions (Delhi Nationals in mid-February, CWG on April 8 and Team Worlds on May 6) and we did not have proper rest, that could be the reason too,” said the 28-year-old, a bronze medallist at last year’s race walking Asians.
“Still, I went to Taicang with the belief that I would do well. The number was more this time and shortly after the third kilometre, somebody stepped on my feet as we moved to the side for the water point and I twisted my ankle.”
“Still, I put the pain out of my head and was in the lead group till 10km. But after that, I felt my groin muscles tighten, the lack of proper workouts after the CWG were probably a reason for this.”
For somebody who had started a race walking revolution after his London feat (finished 10th), finishing 49th at Taicang must have been deeply disappointing. Irfan, the best Indian, was nearly eight minutes slower than his season best.
“If I had clocked my season best, I would have won a medal. And if I had clocked my personal best (1:20.21s, London Olympics), I would have won gold at Taicang,” said Irfan. The gold went to Japan’s Koki Ikeda in 1:21.13s.
For a change, almost the entire nine-member Indian men’s and women’s teams fared badly.
“The conditions kept changing frequently, first cool, then very hot, later it started raining. That could be why we all felt tight,” said Irfan.
“Now, I’m preparing for the Asian Games, I came down to Bengaluru to pick my bags and go to Dharamsala for the national camp. I’ve already made the AFI’s qualification cut but I don’t know what the federation plans after this performance.”
Meanwhile Harminder Singh, the assistant national coach and a 20km bronze medallist at 2010 CWG in Delhi, said the walkers did not have proper recovery time after Gold Coast. “Taicang came too close after Gold Coast.”
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